December 2017 Edition

A special warm welcome to the new edition of the Research Student Cascade.  This gives us the opportunity to tell you about news, events, competitions and matters relating to your world at DMU. We’ll also throw in a little bit about any regulation changes to keep you up to date.  This edition includes:

A feature on Lego Serious Play
A Q&A with a PhD student who presented at a recent national  3MT® competition
Research Degree Students’ Poster Competition 2018
CLaSS Update
News of a new Student Society
New feature – “On A Different Note”

We welcome your feedback and if there’s something you feel should be included in a future edition please get in touch .

Graduate School Director

Firstly we’d like to introduce our Director, Professor Laurence Brooks who joined us towards the end of the summer.  We very much look forward to working with Laurence over the coming years.

Professor Laurence Brooks

Thank you and thanks for giving me the chance to introduce myself. As has been said, I took over as Director of the Graduate School in July 2017, having already been appointed as Professor of Technology and Social Responsibility within the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility in the Technology Faculty. I have a multi-disciplinary background, first as a social scientist, then a PhD in Engineering Management and from there a move into the world of Information Systems and Computing. My research centres around how we can better understand the way that computer-based technologies interact with society, in all shapes and forms, whether in government, health or developing countries. Originally from London, I have lived in various parts of the country, including Liverpool, York and Oxford, enjoy travelling and getting to know new peoples and cultures. I am dad to three children of school age.

WE HAVE MOVED – do come and visit us

We are very pleased to have re-located to our new space on the third floor of Gateway House and now enjoy improved facilities including a spacious reception area (room 3.30), training room, viva room as well as a student study area and common room.  All rooms feature works from the DMU Art Collections showcasing photographs, prints, drawings and textile pieces from Fine Art and Textile Design graduates. Winning entries to the annual research degree poster competition are also due to go up on display very soon.

Training Room

Viva Room

Student Common Room

We’ve already held several events in our new light and airy training room and feedback has been  positive.  Users like the plectrum tables and interaction  they help encourage.   A number of viva voce examinations have taken place in our viva room and we encourage supervisors to contact us to view and book the room.  We look forward to seeing more students utilising the common room and study area and already have events due to take place in them.

Adventures in LEGOLAND by Julia Reeve

Lego Landland, Denmark

Lego Landland, Denmark

Lego Serious Play is a methodology enabling participants to gain new perspectives, share knowledge and understand complex issues using exercises with Lego bricks.  It is underpinned by Social Constructivist learning theory, and embodies the notion of ‘Thinking with the hands.’ We have previously run 2 Lego Serious Play workshops within the Graduate School: these were facilitated by Alison James, currently Professor of Learning & Teaching, University of Winchester. Following the success of these, it was my turn to be trained in the Lego Serious Play methodology, starting with an intensive course at Legoland Windsor, followed by a conference at Legoland, Denmark. For more on my Lego journey see:

http://Writing Pad East Midlands Blog

Lego Landland, Denmark

I learned about the theories supporting LSP, and worked through many exercises from both a team and individual development perspective.

  1. 1. Ask the question
  2. Construct the model
  3. Share stories
  4. Questions and Reflection

The benefits of LSP include:

Forges fast social connections
Gives everyone a voice
Provides new insights and ideas
Encourages self-awareness
Creates shared knowledge
Externalises thinking
Explores individual and team culture and identity

On February 14th we will be running a 1 day Lego Serious Play session for research students: ‘Exploring your Doctoral Research with Lego’.  Please contact to book a place.

For a research student view on Graduate School Lego workshops see:

lego workshop

3MT® Three Minute Thesis Competition

We were delighted to see PhD student Alexandra Davis with her presentation “Mini-me: Cancer In 3D” reach the final of the Vitae 3MT® competition and present at the Vitae Researcher Development International Conference 2017 in September.  New Mum Alexandra takes a few moments out to answer our probing questions.

Alexandra Davis

Tell us about your experience at the 3MT competition?
After spending a number of weeks preparing and recording my 3MT video for the institutional competition I submitted it with fingers crossed. I was thrilled when a few weeks later I received a call from Paula in the GSO telling me that I had won! Not only did this mean a lovely prize, but also the opportunity to be entered into the semi final competition with winners from all the other participating institutes. On the hottest day in June (and at 34 weeks pregnant) I filmed my entry and the GSO submitted it on my behalf. Towards the end of July I received an email from Vitae saying that I had been selected as one of the 12 semi-finalists. The judges were narrowing these down to 6 finalists and they would let me know if I had been selected. Two weeks later (with the birth of my daughter in-between) I received my second vitae email this time telling me that I had been selected to progress to the live Vitae 3MT final! I was in complete shock, in a good way, I just couldn’t believe I’d made it this far.

The live final took place on Monday 11th September at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole. I was one of six finalists who presented live to around 350 Vitae Annual Conference participants in a pause during the conference dinner. The stage was set, the lights were rigged up – it was an extremely sleek and professional set up. My supervisor, Dr Mhairi Morris, along with staff from DMU were there to support me which really meant a lot. I was on first and despite being very nervous it was a incredible experience! The other finalists followed, all delivering very interesting and engaging presentations. Although I didn’t win it was such an honour to be able to represent DMU and to share my research with such a vast audience.

What was good about 3MT?
Preparing for the competition really helped me to focus on what my research is really about and how to explain it clearly to a non-specialist audience.
As a result of the competition I gained valuable presentation experience and now feel more confident when presenting.
Not only were the prizes great, but the accolade of coming first in the institutional final and making the national live final look very impressive on my CV.

What was challenging?
For me the most challenging aspect of the competition was not only trying to explain my entire PhD in just three minutes, but also trying to explain it in a way that was interesting and accessible for a non-specialist audience.
With regards to the live final the big challenge was managing my nerves at the prospect of presenting to over 350 people, under spotlights with the three minutes counting down right before my eyes.
The final challenge for me on a personal level, was looking after my 4 week old daughter at the live finals. Too young to be left behind, Matilda came to Birmingham with me.

Have you any advice for other students looking to enter?
Don’t hesitate – go for it! I was initially unsure and a little nervous about entering the three minute thesis competition, however I am so pleased that I did – it was a fantastic experience! Whilst delivering my three minute presentation was extremely nerve wracking, it was a great way to gain valuable presentation experience. I would highly recommend that all PhD students have a go.

Alexandra at 3MT final


So what is the Three Minute Thesis?
The 3MT competition was developed by The University of Queensland.  The exercise cultivates students’ academic, presentation and research communication skills.  It challenges students to consolidate their ideas and research discoveries so they can be presented concisely to a non-specialist audience.

Why participate?
3MT provides you with the opportunity to:
– Communicate your ideas effectively to the wider community;
– Describe your research findings to a non-specialist audience;
– Crystallise your thoughts about your thesis;
– Increase your profile within the DMU research community, and;
Network with other Research Degree students.

How will it work?
Faculty Event
Participants will submit video clips of their presentation to the Graduate School  for judging by 
6th April 2018.  The faculty will then select 3 high calibre students to the institutional final.

DMU Institutional Final
The final will be held on Tuesday 8th May 2018.There will be cash prizes for the winners (1st £500, 2nd £300, 3rd – £150 and People’s Choice winner – £150).  A prize of £25 will be awarded to each entrant selected for the institutional event.

The winner will represent DMU at the national Vitae Final in September 2018.

Further information about the national event can be found here:

Research Degree Students’ Poster Competition

This annual competition will reach it’s thirteenth year in 2018, when it runs on Wednesday 11th April.  It always proves to be a big hit with students and supervisors alike.  Here’s what’s involved. The Graduate School invites Research Degree Students to create an A1 size poster that explains their research to a judging panel and audience who have no expertise in your subject area. This is an exciting opportunity to publicise their research, make useful contacts and showcase their research to a wider audience.   Training workshops are organised  before the event to give advice on designing posters.

Winning Poster 2017 by Carlos Naranjo-Mendoza

Here’s what students have said about the event:

“The poster competition was a very good opportunity to talk about my research especially to a non-specialist audience. Thought provoking questions and comments during the session provided further insight moving forward with my research. Overall, it was a great experience.”

“The competition gave me the opportunity to communicate my research to a wider audience and was an exciting experience. The Graduate School Office gave me the necessary support and guidance to design an award winning poster. I must admit that the whole experience has helped me to improve my presentation skills and confidence level.”

“The competition is brilliant, well organised and the people who attend the events are very friendly.  Most importantly the feedback I got from the judges after the competition was very helpful for me to improve my poster and presentation.  I had a great experience!”

Please support your fellow students on Wednesday 11th April 2018 and come along to the Venue@DMU:

Judging takes place from 9.45 – 1.15
Winners announcements at 2.30 approximately

Poster Competition Prize Winners 2017 with Jo Cooke – Asso COO & Exec Director of SAAS

CLaSS Update by Dr Andrew Reeves

Dr Andrew Reeves from CLaSS Skyping at a recent thesis drop in session

CLaSS enhances writing support for off-campus PhD Students

The Centre for Learning and Study Support (CLaSS), part of DMU’s Library and Learning Services directorate, has been enhancing its writing and study support offer for off-campus PhD students.

Several hundred doctoral students at DMU are either based overseas or live some distance away from Leicester and as a result can rarely attend the campus for training sessions and tutorial support.

This year CLaSS are offering three new modes of support for off-campus students:

– Online attendance of the Writing Group for Research Students using “Blackboard Collaborate”. These sessions take place monthly on Fridays in Kimberlin Library, featuring a writing skills workshop and a peer-to-peer writing feedback session.

– “Thesis drop-in” via Skype. At these sessions, without a prior appointment, students can “drop-in” face-to-face or via Skype for a one to one conversation about writing, research design or other aspects of doctoral learning. Sessions take place monthly on Tuesdays from 10am to 11am.
– Online Tutorials. Students can book a 30-minute online tutorial at a time to suit them (subject to availability), to discuss writing or doctoral learning one-to-one using Skype or “Zoom”.

Full details are available on the CLaSS website here:

This support complements other learning support available from CLaSS for doctoral students, including: 30-minute face-to-face tutorials; “drop-in” one-to-one tutorials every day of term time; e-tutorials for distance learners; a programme of workshops on academic learning; online resources. To find out about all the support available, go to:

Don’t forget that other library staff are there to help too, including Academic Liaison Librarians, who can assist with literature searching and referencing, and the Maths Learning Centre.

Student Society

We are keen to see a greater sense of community develop amongst our students, and are excited to hear about the development of a student society.

Tom Weir from PhD Student Society

Let us introduce you to student Tom Weir the man behind this positive move:
Hello everyone.  I’m a full time PhD student in my second year, researching the history of learning disability sport in the UK. We’ve set up PhD society as a way of hopefully connecting up our small community of research students here at DMU, to do fun activities, learn off each other and hopefully make a few friends! Having recently moved house to Leicester, I know how important it is to have some new pals, so we’re hoping to organise a series of events such as quiz nights, day trips, documentary evenings and sports events.

End of term party

The PhD society are holding their next meeting on Thursday January 18th from 5 to 7pm in Gateway House 3.11

for further information please contact: Tom at:


Code Of Practice Update

As promised here’s some updates to highlight  from the Code Of Practice which came into effect from 1st October 2017:

Change of name of ‘Registration to ‘First Project Review’
Option to have an ‘Independent Chair’ at a viva (and hence less experienced examiner)
New 12 months fee free period (as from 1st October 2017)
Student/supervisor meeting reports moved to myResearch (old submissions can be requested from the archive – please contact the Graduate School)
FT each month, PT, every other month
Chased if miss 3 consecutive (FT); very important for Tier 4 compliance
Tuition Fee Charging – charged if major revisions
Retrospective Withdrawals & Interruptions not permitted
Fieldwork Process – Students who wish to undertake field work of 30 days or greater are required to complete a Field Work Request form through myResearch prior to undertaking a Field Trip as part of their research

On A Different Note

In each edition we’d like to highlight something different within the institution which we  find of interest.  If you have any thoughts on a special feature you’d like to see please get in touch.  This edition features the Graduate School’s Jimi O’Callaghan who’s feeling all nostalgic.

I was recently thinking about the rich heritage this institution has and started reflecting on some of it’s history in particular the old DSU Arena formally Leicester Poly Arena which I frequented in my teens and twenties. Having spoken to  a few people  since originally writing this I’ve learnt legends Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Bob Marley and Led Zeppelin have all performed at this institution in years gone by –  Wow mind blowing!!

Being fairly intimate, it was always a great place to see live music.
Some of my early highlights include seeing US Hip Hop act Salt-n-Pepa in ‘88. The gig was a complete sell-out and Leicester was buzzing.  The night kicked off with big UK Hip Hop crew the Demon Boyz  as the support and culminated in what seemed like half the audience joining Salt-n-Pepa on stage to perform their huge hit “Push It”.

Other fond memories include a secret gig by sample cut-up innovator’s Bomb the Bass who were enjoying a 3rd successive top 10 hit with their cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Say A Little Prayer”.   During the show a then unknown heavily pregnant Neneh Cherry took to the stage in a pair of thick Nike Air Force One’s and performed “Buffalo Stance”.  This later reached  number 3 in the UK Charts and Neneh’s performance on Top of the Pops created a stir in the press at the time.  Apparently the world was not used to seeing a pregnant pop star performing back then.

My biggest regret however has to be missing a one off gig by electronic legends Kraftwerk in the summer of 1992. This was a warm up for an upcoming UK tour where they played to a select audience including synth-pop veteran Vince Clarke.




Highlights also include Acid Jazz band Brand New Heavies, Madchester’s Happy Mondays, electronic act Groove Armada and James Lavelle’s UNKLE.   2002 saw the Pet Shop Boys embark on a brief intimate tour.  The duo moved away from their usual high visual presentation and perform as a band with Neil Tennant playing guitar, Chris Lowe on keyboards alongside two other guitarists and a percussionist.  All happy memories.

If you have any photos or anecdotes of you own experiences please get in touch. Jimi O’Callaghan

Please note:
The University will be closed from 22nd December to Monday 1st January.

We look forward to seeing you in 2018

Graduate School
Gateway House 3.35
De Montfort University
Telephone (0116) 2506309